Ace rookies give San Miguel extra punch in ABL caging
MANILA, Philippines—Two crack rookies aim to bring their touted act to a San Miguel squad vying for a strong debut in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) next month.
San Miguel coach Bobby Parks said Filipino-Italian Chris Banchero and Cebuano standout Junemar Fajardo, both tagged as future pro stars, may just provide the spark the Beermen need in the tough eight-team field.
“We’re building this team around defense and having these two players helps,” Parks said in the PSA Forum Tuesday at Shakey’s UN Avenue.
“We’re a mixture of veterans and young guys. We’re still trying to develop our chemistry and it’s hard to say how far we can go.”
Banchero, a 6-foot-1 point guard, bagged the All-American Player of the Year when he starred with the Seattle Pacific University in the NCAA Division II last year.
“Banchero is a young guy who can really shoot and deliver passes very crisply,” said Noli Eala, San Miguel’s director of sports and special assistant to the office of the president.
“I think I’ve adjusted,” said the 22-year-old Banchero, who traces his roots in Ilocos. “It didn’t take long, even if obviously, it’s a different type of basketball here.”
The Beermen also scored a recruitment coup with Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 University of Cebu center who has long been pursued by many Manila teams.
“Who can deny that Junemar is the future of Philippine basketball,” said Eala. “He gave our team the post presence and character.”
“There’s pressure,” admitted Fajardo. “It’s my first time to play in a big league. I’m used to playing against smaller players in Cebu.”
Banchero and Fajardo will team up with the 6-foot-9 Dalron Johnson and the 6-6 Richard Jeter, San Miguel’s two American imports.
“We expect to be competitve, but we heard a lot of the teams have improved,” said Eala, noting that the Philippine Patriots and teams from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia remain as the top contenders.
Former Patriots Junjun Cabatu, Benedict Fernandez, Froilan Baguion and Hafer Mondragon will also suit up for the Beermen along with Jan Colina, Kevin dela Peña, Allan Mangahas, RJ Rizada, Chris Luanzon, Neil Raneses, Norman Gonzales and Marlon Basco.
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